'Guardians of the Galaxy: volume 2' picks up pretty much where the first one left off. That is why Groot is still a baby and then, before the opening credits, the movie jumps forward 34 years from its 1980 flashback. So, it's 2014 again and the Guardians are the organized team that they became at the end of the first film. Fighting baddies, doing jobs for money. This is established (along with the great old-school soundtrack that the first movie had) in a very funny opening battle/title sequence.
Rocket's affinity for thievery gets the team in hot water and then the story takes the Guardians all over the galaxy, Empire Strikes Back-style. Peter Quill (Star-Lord) meets his father and goes off to his home planet with Drax and Gamora while blue, fin-headed Yondu joins the rest of the team to find him. Peter's father, as you may have seen in the trailers, is played by Kurt Russell, the human form of a living planet called Ego. Peter learns where he came from and struggles to understand why his father left him. As the one who actually raised Peter, you may remember from the first film, Yondu has a larger and much more emotional role in this story than I expected he would. The whole movie is about people who you are related to vs. people who were actually there for you. "Family" is an important theme to this story, although Vin Diesel doesn't actually say the word "family" over and over again like he does in 'Fast and the Furious' because he is playing Groot.
This is a very funny movie. The Guardians quip at each other during the action scenes. I agree with criticisms that there is a little too much of this, but only a little. Most of the jokes either land or help you to get to know the characters and their flippant attitudes a little better. Another movie that had a rapid fire succession of jokes was 'The Simpsons Movie', but 'GOTG volume 2' made me laugh much more. There are more funny references to things that Peter Quill grew up with in the 80's that nobody out in space understands and this creates a funny friction between him and Gamora, who knows nothing of David Hasselhoff and Pac-Man.
My only complaint about this movie is a storyline between Nebula and Gamora. For most of the movie, Nebula is just kind of there and then, the emotion of her feud with Gamora comes out. It's an interesting dynamic, but it should have been at least alluded to earlier. Other than this minor gripe, this film does a great job of juggling all of the characters. There is a slight 'drag' in certain places, as they had to give all the main characters/actors adequate screen time. But everyone has something interesting to do and some way to grow as a character. New friendships are formed, relationships move forward, either as friends or enemies. Drax is far more interesting than I expected him to be, a prejudice I had against Dave Bautista as an actor because he started his career as a wrestler. When I think "wrestler in a space movie" I think 'Suburban Commando', but he was awesome and hilarious in this.
Even the cameos are well handled, not bogging the movie down. They serve their purpose, either providing a laugh or an insight into one of the main characters, and then they move on. The Stan Lee cameo is one of my favorites of his. Another small role in this film is an obvious set-up to a spin-off movie that Marvel hasn't greenlit yet. But the set-up for said film is saved for one of five post-credits scenes that this movie has, so sit tight when the credits roll. I saw this movie at a screening where people walked out as the credits were rolling. My wife looked at me and muttered "amateurs". This is a Marvel movie, people!
A fun space adventure that will make you laugh out loud. No, it's not as good as the first one, but not by much. 3.5 Infinity Stones out of 5.
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